Ever since my childhood, the BMW brand has been part of my life. I vividly remember my dad’s excitement when brought his first BMW home. Owning one of Bavaria’s Motor Werks had been a lifelong dream of his, and his pride in accomplishing it was worn transparently on his face.
I was 12 at the time and naively said, “Daddy, is it a sports car?”
He gently smiled and said, “No, this is a performance car.”
I’ve never forgotten that moment, not even now that he’s on BMW number eight.
When I was 15, Dad took me to the BMW Museum in Munich, and I distinctly remember watching him, a grown-up kid in a candy store. I learned how to drive stick on his second 3-series. He only drives manual BMWs and I always swore I would do the same, just like my dad. And for my 20th birthday, the old man took me to Spartanburg, South Carolina, for some daddy-daughter bonding at the BMW Center Driving School.
What else does BMW mean to me?
- M power—and the time my dad made one of his employees take me for a ride in the 5th E46 M3 in our area. Imagine my excitement when Mr. Peters pulled over and told me I could drive the rest of the way
- Straight 6
- Rear wheel drive
- Manual transmission
- 50/50 weight distribution
- Naturally aspirated
- A driver’s car
Well, I recently bought my BMW number eight, and it’s not any of these things. It’s a 2014 BMW 320i xDrive in Basic Bitch White with leatherette—a vehicle of circumstance, not passion.
As my biggest fan, Mark Baruth, said, “What led somebody who loves cars to buy one of the most hated cars in recent history?” He also said:
“How could you?”
“I’m disappointed in you.”
“Did it come with a pair of UGGs?”
How, how could I let this happen? Throw out the list above and reset your expectations. This is not the BMW that my father and I fell in love with. In fact, it’s unapologetically everything that my Z4M isn’t.
Rewind to a few weeks ago. I was on the hunt for a new daily. On average I drive about 175 miles per day, I live in hell—AKA New England— so I need heated seats, I want to look professional pulling up to clients, and I have two large dogs. It should be noted that I don’t keep a work car for more than six months. So that means I need a pre-owned sedan or SUV with AWD/4×4, leather, and it can’t bend me over in front of every gas station. My last work car was a Lexus IS250 AWD, which was pretty perfect. With a budget of $15,000, the BMW 320i is essentially a nicer and newer version of that L wagon. It has a softer ride (80mm profile tires), gets better mileage, has an equally unintuitive navigation system, and a more comfortable seat. Other cars that I had considered:
- Ford Fusion SE AWD
- Ford Exploder XLT 4×4 with leather
- Honda Accord EX-L
- A brief moment of weakness when I came upon a one owner 2007 325xi manual wagon with navigation, sport pack, cold weather pack, and premium pack (real BMW people are probably screaming right now)
After several test drives the 320i was a clear winner. It came in under budget and had fewer miles than the other cars I looked at. What can I say? Sometimes you want that sporty German ride and analog everything. Other times you just want to feel like you’re in a Toyota Camry, without looking like you’re in a Toyota Camry.
It’s Camry time.